When Steven Gerrard was appointed Rangers manager his first objective was to shore up the defence. Arguably his greatest achievement this season has been halving the goals against column, no mean feat. Rangers were matching Celtic for goals scored but needed more depth in creativity. It was also apparent that Gerrard wanted to adopt a similar 4-3-3 to Liverpool’s. The midfielders he inherited needed to be upgraded if Rangers were to compete with their Old Firm neighbours.
The season started early with friendlies and Europa League qualifiers which gave Gerrard a good chance to look at his squad. Greg Docherty was the first to go out on loan and remains a part of Gerrard’s plans, his successful loan period (10 goals in 50 games) will have done him the world of good. Jason Holt was allowed to leave on loan as much to put him in the shop window than anything else, he won’t play for Rangers again but did well at Fleetwood.
Jordan Rossiter left to join Bury in the January transfer window purely for game time. He’s now had just one injury in the last twelve months and that was the result of a bad tackle. Rossiter was the man of the match in nearly three-quarters of his games on loan. He could yet be an asset especially if Rangers persist with the diamond in midfield, Steven Davis won’t be around forever.
In this tactical analysis, we’ll look at who came into Ibrox and what impact they had in Gerrard’s first season. If anyone knows what a decent midfielder looks like it should be our management team.
Scott Arfield – 9/10
One of the first to arrive along with Allan McGregor. A real statement of intent. It’s safe to say that had the Player of the Year awards been chosen at the end of the season he’d have been in the reckoning. He scored 12 goals with most of his appearances being in a deeper position and all from open play. It’s no coincidence that our worst form coincided with his injuries, keeping Arfield fit is key to Rangers’ success next season.
Ovie Ejaria – 6/10
From day one Ejaria split fans’ opinion. He’d never played a lot of first-team football and we were expecting him to dictate our tempo. Because of his premature departure, it would be easy to label him a flop, however, without him, we wouldn’t have qualified for the group stages for the Europa League. His performance away against Ufa was one of the best by any individual over the course of the season. Not only did he score the winning goal but his defensive work when down to nine men was outstanding. Ejaria’s ability to hold onto the ball and let others recover was essential in European football. His best performances were in the Europa League. Unfortunately, it was his performances in Scotland that were his undoing. He won’t be the last talented player that isn’t suited to the Scottish Premiership.
Lassana Coulibaly – 5/10
See above. After his first few games Rangers fans were praying we had a cheap payment option to buy Coulibaly. He was strong, powerful, athletic and was scoring goals. He would break play up and then give the ball to the more creative players, we had uncovered a gem. Coulibaly then got injured and was never the same player again.
The stories of his father’s death and subsequent drop in form never went away. I thought that Gerrard might give him another chance given just how good he was early in the season but latterly he wasn’t even making the matchday squads. Like Ejaria though, without him, we wouldn’t have made the group stages of the Europa League and for that, at least, we should be thankful.
Steven Davis – 6/10
If only. If only he had hit the ground running when he arrived there may have been a closer title race, he’d also score higher than a six. His form in the last two months has given us greater hope for next season where his form in the first two wouldn’t have persuaded anyone to give him a deal. Davis has matured into a fine footballer. His relationship with Arfield could be key next season. They are just on a different level to any other midfielders in the country. Their careers back that up.
Glenn Kamara – 8/10
So good they should make a song about him. The last Old Firm game gave us a glimpse of what he is capable of. He’ll take the ball under pressure, alleviate it from his teammates, then build an attack. He’s never been a goal scorer but given his technical ability, he should be pushing to score more often. At £50k he has saved us a fortune and could well make us one further down the line if he continues to impress next season, just look at Ryan Kent as an example of what a good season at Rangers can do to your value.
Consistency and quality
Steven Gerrard will be looking to add quality again to Rangers midfield for next season but with Arfield, Davis and Kamara in place, it looks like just one more decent addition will be needed. Personally, with the return of Docherty and Rossiter (plus Ryan Jack, Graham Dorrans and Ross McCrorie) I’m not sure it is as essential as it was previously. I think he’ll look for one more attacking/creative midfielder.
Nick Powell could be an option with his contract expiring at Wigan. At 25 he has decent value if he proves to be a success. If he doesn’t work out there will be plenty of teams down south that would take him for even a modest fee. Lewis Holtby is another that has been rumoured, again available for free and at 28 has experience of playing at the highest level for club and country. James Milner has also been mooted but that’s less likely given his form over the season.
I’d go for David Turnbull at Motherwell. After a brilliant season, he would cost us over £2m but if Morelos is sold the money would be there. He is also at a great age to balance with the experience of Arfield and Davis. Even if Morelos isn’t sold, the money we have saved with Davis and Kamara frees up a lot more money than had previously been anticipated. This will be the intriguing one. As with the defence, we have consistency and quality now and it doesn’t need a great deal of tweaking. Will he go all out on the forward line? Find out next week!
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